Alpes-Maritimes’ prefecture is preparing to issue a decree placing the department on drought alert after six months of little to no rain.
Jean-Philippe Frère, the president of the agricultural union FDSEA 06, told Nice Matin newspaper last week that the department’s water deficit has already reached 50%, and urged local authorities to take action before the situation worsened.
The prefecture is now expected to place the Brague, upstream Var, downstream Var, Papillon, Bévéra and Roya river basins under alert-level restrictions.
The introduction of a drought alert (alerte sécheresse) involves requiring local residents and organisations to limit the amount of water they use for watering gardens, green spaces and golf courses, as well as for washing cars.
Farms are also obliged to reduce their water usage by 50%, or to avoid using water for farm operations for up to three days a week.
The local weather forecasts for the next fortnight do not predict rain, so water reserves are unlikely to be replenished in the immediate future.
How do drought warnings and restrictions work?
‘Vigilance’ (or ‘warning’) is the lowest level of drought restriction in France, and involves raising awareness and encouraging individuals to reduce their water usage.
The next level is ‘alert’, which leads to a reduction in the amount of water which can be used for farming and for watering green spaces such as golf courses.
This is followed by ‘reinforced alert’, which tightens the above restrictions and could also lead to some usages being temporarily banned.
The final restriction level is ‘crisis’, under which water may only be used for essential reasons such as drinking, cooking or washing.
In times of drought, the ministry of agriculture can decide to recognise a state of “agricultural calamity” and compensate farmers for up to 30% of their ruined crops.
You can find further details of the drought warnings and/or restrictions in place around France on the ecology ministry’s Propluvia website.
As concerns over the possibility of a drought in southeastern France mount, northwestern parts of the country are today preparing for sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall.